Gender-neutral forms for referring to men and women 

English is largely gender-neutral, so most professional categories do not distinguish between men and women. Furthermore, when you are referring to a particular person, there is no need to avoid gender-marked language.

Exemple correcte Chairwoman Vázquez apologised for her absence.

However, in situations where no sex should predominate – for example, when referring to the position rather than the person occupying it – always use the neutral version(s).

Exemple correcte A new chairperson must be elected before the Senate’s inaugural session.

Exemple correcte A new chair must be elected before the Senate’s inaugural session.

Many professions which previously had only gender-specific names now have a neutral form. For example, ombudsman and ombudswoman should become ombuds officer where possible.

Take care when using both gender-neutral titles and they, their, or themselves. In the example below, their absence could refer to either the chairperson or other committee members.

Exemple inadequat The chairperson apologised for their absence.

Best practice is to avoid this construction, as below.

Exemple correcte The chairperson apologised for not being able to attend.

Avoid the few gender-marked words in English (for example, fireman, air hostess) by using one of the many neutral synonyms available (fire fighter, flight attendant).
Darrera actualització: 15-11-2017
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Recommended citation:
«Gender-neutral forms for referring to men and women» [en línia]. A: Llibre d’estil de la Universitat de Barcelona. Barcelona: Universitat de Barcelona. Serveis Lingüístics. <> [consulta: 16 maig 2022].